For many years, I slept in my parents\’ bedroom. I don\’t know whether this was because I was an only child, or whether I was an only child because of this. I remember hearing my parents whispering in the dark, and making whispering noises—bsss, bsss, bsss—to let them know I was awake. I remember my father saying, in the morning, “Don\’t look. I\’m getting dressed.” He used the second person plural, lest I suspect that my mother was exempt.
In those years, one of the highlights of my life was sleeping with my mother. This happened for a few nights in the summer, when my father stayed behind to work in Barcelona and my mother and I went to my grandparents\’ house in the country. I remember the delicious feeling of falling asleep, knowing that my mother would come in the night and sleep next to me. To this day, when my husband, who stays up later than I do, comes to bed, that same feeling of joy and security washes over me.
I was in elementary school when I was exiled into my own bedroom, a long, long way down the hallway from my parents\’ room. I had looked forward to spending my first night in my room. But when the lights were turned off and the footsteps grew faint along the hallway, I was in such anguish that I was given a reprieve.
I eventually got used to sleeping alone, and then we moved to Ecuador. We shared a house with the cellist, the second violinist, and the violist of my father\’s string quartet. They were all unmarried men in their forties. My hyper-vigilant mother decided that until she knew what was what, I had better sleep near the conjugal bed again. I was ten and didn\’t much mind, but began to find the “don\’t look. I\’m getting dressed” routine tedious. During that time in Ecuador we did a lot of traveling and staying in weird hotels. And once again, for safety\’s sake, I slept with my parents.
A mere fifteen-or-so years later I brought home my first-born daughter from the hospital, and set up the crib next to our bed. But her snufflings and garglings kept me up all night, and soon she was sleeping in the hallway—close enough that I could hear her when she woke, but far enough so I could get some sleep. This was long before co-sleeping, which makes a lot of sense in an evolutionary kind of way, became popular.
These days, when Bisou wakes me at 3 a.m., I often take her into the guest room and put her in bed with me. I don\’t get much sleep, but I keep doing it for some reason, and I know she enjoys it. Man or beast, sleeping arrangements are powerful things.